Residents of Mahavir Enclave in Dwarka had to go without power for 72 hours last month after a transformer caught fire due to overload. This was not a one-off case but something which has become common across the city.
Delhi reeled under power cuts this summer not only on account of power shortage but because of local faults too. Locals say new transformers are needed.
When power was privatised in Delhi, distribution companies were mandated to improve infrastructure — which hasn’t undergone a major overhaul despite tariff hikes over the years. After a hike of 22% in August last year, power was tariff was increased by another 26% this year.
So while power demand has increased by nearly 10% every year, the old infrastructure has not able to take the heavy load.
There are chiefly three power distribution companies — BRPL, BSES Yamuna Power Limited and Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (TPDDL).
The discoms claim they have done their bit. BRPL and BYPL say they have invested Rs. 5,000 crore jointly in the past 10 years. “We have invested Rs. 3,000 crore on new lines, transformers, and new conductors,” said Praveen Sinha, CEO of TPDDL.But residents say going by the power cuts and outages, the amount does not seem enough. "There has been no improvement in the infrastructure.
They have been continuing with whatever they inherited. Coming up with the excuse of not having funds is unacceptable,” said Rajiv Kakaria, member of GK-1 RWA.
Even power secretary Shakti Sinha admits the infrastructure needs a major overhaul. “In many parts, the infrastructure dates to Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking (DESU) days. Discoms have been citing fund crunch for not being able to invest in infrastructure,” he said.
In East Delhi, BYPL needs Rs. 850 crore to revamp the overhead system. “We want to get assistance under the Accelerated Power Development and Reform Programme (APDRP) and once we get that, we will be able to invest Rs. 850 crore,” said Ramesh Narayanan, CEO of BYPL.
“In the past five years, there has been no tariff revision. There are certain critical points that we need to correct. We have not been able to do that so far but with the tariff hike, we will be able to do that,” said BRPL CEO Gopal Saxena.
Transformers trip frequently, ill-maintained
Kailash Colony is one of victims of BSES Rajdhani’s apathy. The locality’s transformers not only trip frequently, but are also in a poor shape due to lack of maintenance.
“The transformer hasn’t even been fenced. It keeps tripping every now and then as it can’t handle the increased load,” said Urvashi Sharma, a resident of the colony.
Students are forced to study in candlelight during night due to erratic power supply. “Power supply here is no better than any illegal colony. There have been frequent outages during night, forcing us to study in candlelight,” said Parul Gupta, a teenager.Residents also complain about meters that run fast. "We have written to the DERC so many times but our complaints have fallen on deaf ears. They have left us to the mercy of private discoms, who are only interested in making money," said Nisha Chanana, a resident of C-block, Kailash Colony.
Residents go back to dark ages, buy petromax
Residents have been forced to go back to the dark ages — using petromax. Constant technical snags in power line have kept them away from their air-conditioners.
“We have finally bought a petromax, which we used to have in the 1980s, to light up the room. Every now and then, there’s a power cut as the BSES merely corrects a snag and does not tackle the problem at its root which is overloading,” said Archit Jain, a resident of Jangpura Extension.
At the local BSES grievance office, one sees a beeline of consumers, waiting to file their complaints. There is no surety of an uninterrupted power supply even after the tariff hike, they say.
“Power tariffs go up every six months. Often the reason cited is that discoms are registering losses. But the discom hasn’t put in place sufficient power infrastructure despite the hike. How do discoms register losses when they can’t even meet the power demand,” said Anil Anwani, a resident of Jangpura Extension.